“I serve different worlds, different languages, different cinemas, different directors, different countries, different regions,” says actress Golshifteh Farahani, originally from Iran but now a true citizen of the world, currently living between Portugal and Spain.
“I really dream of that especially when I left Iran. I went to the States first and then when I realised most of the roles that they were proposing were really ethnic terrorist, very regional, very close to where I was from, or whatever that was happening, and I was terrified because I never wanted to play a terrorist, especially in 2008. Then little by little, things changed, and I think it was through my openness. For me nothing was impossible. I was always open, and I had this pleasure of not being fitted into a frame. That’s why I hate frames.”
Currently riding high from the acclaim of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and on the flipside, the box office success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and the US remake of French film The Intouchables, The Upside, the actress does an about face starring in Girls of the Sun and The Night Eats the World.
“Everybody wants to be the light,” she says, not necessarily about acting only. “I always want to be the darkness, the emptiness that holds the light. And I think as we say music, it’s not the notes but it’s the silence between the notes that creates music. Even when I’m sometimes underwater, when I am in the shadow, underwater I can see what’s happening in the sun where the sun is shining in the water. But when you are in the sun, when you see in the shadow, you don’t see anything. It’s like going in darkness. So, for me, silence is a rhythm. There is a rhythm in silence and there’s vibrations. And I think I have big eyes, and I like to believe that cinema is the language of image mostly than dialogue; it’s not radio. I think whatever sensation we can give without words but with images and sounds are much more interesting. Sometimes I think even if there’s some blind people and they see a movie which is like a radio movie, they will understand more or less the same thing. But I would prefer to see movies which if I was blind, I wouldn’t understand anything.”
The Night Eats the World is a French flip on the zombie film in which Farahani plays a significant supporting part, and in Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun she plays a Kurd that is part of an all-female battalion fighting to take back their homes from IS.
“When Eva came to me, I knew about the story because of where I come from,” says Golshifteh Farahani. I knew the story very well. I knew it by heart. I was just waiting for someone to tell a story about these women and when she came the script didn’t exist. She just told me she’s going to do a movie and I just told her, ‘I’m for it, count on me’.”
Girls of the Sun premiered at Cannes, poetically preceded by the Cate Blanchett-led 82-woman red carpet march.
“I think this is probably the first movie in history that you see women fighters that is a group of women fighters, Farahani says. “We’re used to battles being done by men, but you’re not used to battles where women get their period, or they have to give their breast to a child. This makes a different war if you’re a mother and you’re fighting. I think we’re just not used to this fragility. Women are more fragile, but it doesn’t mean that they’re weaker or better fighters. They’re different fighters because biologically they’re different people. We cannot pee standing; even from this fact to the rest of it, everything is very, very different biologically. We’re different.”
It’s at this point that Farahani tells the gathered journalists that she ‘can pee semi-standing, but not fully standing’, and goes on to discuss her life outside the glamour of showbiz.
“I work on the land now and my hands, you can see, were so destroyed and I was so dirty that before the red carpet I asked for a manicure and pedicure because I was coming straight from a tractor and using an axe. I’m just preparing the land, the land that has been abandoned for years and now we just have to prepare it. And it’s like preparing my soul basically. It’s really metaphorically right because when you’re chopping off trees, you have to chop things in your soul and then it’s not enough – you have to take the roots out because if you don’t take the roots out, you cannot turn the earth. And then if you don’t turn the earth, you can’t fertilise the earth to be able to plant. It’s like I’m doing all this to my soul…
“I’m a little bit outlaw and I don’t like control very much, of states, government,” says the actress who has been exiled from her birthplace, Iran. “I don’t want to see police. I want people to be policing themselves. Everybody responsible, it’s a community life, and I think in Europe, it’s Portugal and Spain a little bit where something like that is really starting.”
Girls of the Sun is playing at the 2019 Alliance Francais French Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival. The Night Eats the World is playing at the 2019 Alliance Francais French Film Festival.